The Weekend Briefing

The Five Truths are as important today as ever.

"Winning: The Five Truths of Fundraising" is available now in print, eBook and audiobook on 

Was this issue forwarded to you?  Subscribe to the Briefing at
“You just have to take stock of what do you have, what do you need and who can help you, because in this climate you cannot be afraid to ask; you have to ask.”
Bryan Rafanelli, in an interview with WGBH Boston
Back in the day, Joel Daly was the big dog among Chicago TV news anchors. I sat in the ABC station lobby waiting for him, clueless where I’d find my first job but with a primo networking opportunity.
The palms of my hands wouldn’t stop sweating. I kept wiping them on my pants legs to no avail and don’t you know, here comes Joel Daly and he shook my clammy hand.
This very kind man smiled, showed me back to his office and on the way whispered, “Remember, I put my pants on one leg at a time, just like you do.”
Board members put their pants on one leg at a time, just like we do. They’re people, just like us. Right now they are stressed. Scared. Worried about family. Maybe worried about their own jobs. Worried to go to the store.
These days your organization is not their number one concern. That is crucial to remember. But it isn’t to imply they don’t care at all.
Your number one job is to make each of your Board members care a little more. Here’s how.
Have you called, emailed, or sent a note to ask how he or she is doing? Just to talk. If your first outreach is email or a note, you must follow up with a call. The phone is your friend. Who’s the right person to call? Probably the CEO, but you’d better know the answer to that. It might be you.
You want to let them know what’s going on. Truthfully, but as positively as possible. Good news? If you have any, now’s the time to share it. Explain the impact of the virus on your organization, as specifically as you can. Please don’t assume they know. They won’t. Explain how gift income for the next 10 weeks is going to help. Specifically. Don’t assume they know. They won’t.
Next, tell them what the fundraising team is doing. Calling donors, calling members of your Wills Society, outreach to lapsed donors, newsy emails, a Spring mailing? Your Board members want to know you’re trying, that you’re doing everything you can.
Acknowledge the circumstances, then say, “If it’s possible and you can make a special gift,” and, “if you can open a door for us…” Notice I say “open a door,” not “open 10 doors.”
Do something human. Send Board members the President’s secret soup recipe, or cookie recipe.
The 2-3 members of the Board you and your President feel the strongest relationships with? Ask them to reach out to their Board peers on your behalf. “This is a tough time for everyone, but all of us, working together, we can get (the organization) through these dark days.”
Find every opportunity to share good news, to thank Board members who have stepped up to help in a way the other Board members will see, and make those phone calls a regular thing.
Remember the Serenity Prayer; the wisdom to know what you can change, and what you can’t change. My first role model in fundraising was the late, great Jim Frick, Vice President for Development at Notre Dame. He told me, “Rob, always remember: One-third of the Board will do everything they can for you. One-third will respond based on how well you do your job and the final third will never respond no matter how hard you try, so don’t worry about them.”
Next week we’ll have wisdom from two philanthropists, and talk about Major Gifts in the Age of Coronavirus.
Stay safe, and have a good week, my friends.
Rob Cummings led development shops through the 1987 Black Monday crash, 9/11 and the Great Recession. If you would like to talk about how Rob can help you and your team now, you can reach him at

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp